YOU CAN'T WIPE YOUR ASS WITH
art professor brings an aesthetic of hygienics to the VAC
a u r a p u c k e t t
boxes students used to haul stuff to Davidson have become trash, or at
most, makeshift furniture in dorm rooms, but for Ray Kleinlein such a
box has become art. Box is one of ten of Kleinlein's paintings now on
exhibit at the VAC, part of the faculty show that runs until October 9.
Also on exhibit are Herb Jackson's colorful conceptual paintings, Cort
Savage's new bronze sculptures, and Russ Warren's vivid horses, but across
the foyer, white predominates. By choosing a mostly neutral, largely white
palette, Kleinlein transformed his passion for looking at the object and
painting it in a straight-forward way from the traditional realism of
his graduate years at Ohio University to the understated still-lives now
on display. His influences reflect this combination of realism and minimalism,
including William Kalf and the Dutch masters, Georgio Morandi, Gerhardt
Richter, Wayne Thiebaud, Frank Stella, and Agnes Martin. The "blank"
nature of the white palette became a foundation for detailed play with
varying textures (the slick Coil versus the nubby White Still Life (toilet
paper)), "sweetening up the color" (Blue and Orange), and minimalist
composition. Bold color, such as the "out of the tube red" that
accents White Socks, is the "icing" on these sheet-cake paintings.
Kleinlein, White Still Life
It is this very simplicity--the shape of a Q-tip, the folds of a Kleenex--that
Kleinlein celebrates in his paintings. By focusing on still-lives of mundane,
often singular objects, Kleinlein persuades viewers to "loo[k] at
the overlooked, focu[s] on things with a sense of reverence." His
repeated decisions to paint white objects are intuitive; because he has
painted them for so long, they are what he notices. This heightened awareness
and intimacy that Kleinlein develops with his subjects (like the cardboard
box which "became like a friend" after several paintings) is
transferred to the viewers as they are faced with larger-than-life details
realistically rendered with subtle variations of neutrality, and ideally
awakens viewers to the "beauty in everyday objects all around us."
As realist, formalist, and minimalist paintings, Kleinlein's work stands
apart from that of the other Davidson faculty, but he thinks that "the
boundaries between the schools of art, the traditional school on this
side and the more conceptual or abstract on this side, those boundaries
are blurring...[and] that's good for students." Kleinlein is pushing
the boundaries of his students in his two Basic Studio classes, giving
them a first project not limited by medium or convention in order to open
their semester-long exploration of the secrets of making art. While Kleinlein
has only been here a few weeks, his transition from the Virginia schools
Longwood College and Hampton City College has been a smooth one. He is
thrilled to be working with such talented faculty in such good facilities,
and he has enjoyed a warm welcome from the Davidson community. He is settling
in, ready to begin painting here and to continue his work of "pleasure,
the joy that you give the visual world."
NEXT WEEK: paintings you can wipe your ass with. Stay tuned, kids!